Academic Whiteknighting Students FTW

Something that annoys me very, very much is how the subject of queerness is treated. I’ll be talking mainly about the pre-university and undergraduate landscape of this country, because that is what I am familiar with, though I suspect that my experiences and observations will be applicable elsewhere as well.

You will notice that quite often, students like to talk about queer issues when discussing ‘a controversy or noteworthy social topic in your country’, or something like. Sometimes the conversation will be about assimilation, sometimes about equality. Rarely does the lecturer or teacher set it as queer rights and queer culture directly. Most of the time the group decides on their presentation subject themselves.

Already we perceive a problem. I have noticed that these groups tend to typically be either majority or exclusively hetero/sexual people (a word which I parse as straight and sexual). The fact that they choose such a topic is a form of anthropological curiosity. It becomes a way of demonstrating their edgy, pseudo-progressive viewpoints, while doing nothing for the queer community, and while doing nothing for their own blinkered ignorance.

How to tell when a person has no clue at all what they are discussing
1. Using the umbrella term LGBT/QIA
I have no objections to people using an identity label for themselves. I have, however, every objection in the wide wide world for labels being imposed on others. Things I dislike about cutesy terms like this: (a) they are cute, which dehumanises; (b) they conflate gender and sexual identity, thereby reinforcing heterocissexist constructs and stereotypes.

2. Using the pronoun they
I am not a ‘they’ or ‘them’, because I am not an Other. Or wouldn’t be, if not for the way you squash and mangle language like that. Phrases like ‘lifestyle’ and ‘community’ manage to simultaneously erase queer culture (in terms of both social manners and creative products) while reducing their worth, their value. The language used by these students typically turns queer people into a sort of sectarian spectacle, an exoticified minority. I don’t appreciate that; I doubt many do. They otherises queer people, makes us the ‘someone else’ rather than a valid part of the nation’s fabric.

3. Being completely unaware of the very existence of

  • queer theory
  • gender theory
  • political aspects thereof

#protip: Actually listen to our voices, and no, it does not count if you’ve skimmed through the blogs of Alex Au and Leona Lo (though that’s a start). The world’s not monolithic; not even queer and gender-variant Singaporeans are monolithic.

But this does no harm, you might protest.

Well, that’s not exactly true.

Firstly, this dehumanises and otherises queer people, because we become anthropological specimens to be gawked at, rather than people with individuality, culture, and valid socio-political concerns.

Secondly, this strips us of agencies because your opinions are presented in a framework where queer people are dependent on your gracious whiteknighting; you are erasing the thoughts, theories, and histories of queer culture and community.

Thirdly – and you may care for this the most – this lands you with egg all over your face. I, for one, find it difficult to take what you say seriously after such a fundamental fuck-up as this.

Cheers,
Wednesday

Some academic resources (though academics and grassroot interests and writings are vastly different in their presentation and outlook, if not their content) from MIT Open Course Ware notes on gender studies and this 101 from Purdue University.

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